State leaders demand investigation into Fresno Co. Health Department, Foster Farms

State lawmakers are banding together to demand an investigation into the Fresno County Health Department and Foster Farms.
FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- State lawmakers are banding together to demand an investigation into the Fresno County Health Department and Foster Farms.

The call to action comes after the Fresno Bee reported health officials tipped off the company about a surprise CalOSHA inspection during the pandemic.

Those allegations have led to a letter from the State Latino Legislative Caucus, asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to investigate the Fresno County Department of Public Health and the southeast Fresno Foster Farms facility.

State leaders say the investigation is needed to regain trust in the department. However, county officials say the accusations aren't accurate.

"The public deserves to know what happened and why it happened," said California Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Hollister).

RELATED: Fresno health official tipped off Foster Farms about surprise inspection: Report

Latino state leaders want answers, demanding the governor step in.

"We expect a comprehensive investigation to restore trust," said California Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles).

State assemblymembers and victims of lost loved ones came together Thursday, calling for action after the Fresno Bee reported the department not only tipped off the company but coordinated a media strategy to withhold information.

"It raises questions whether components of the health and safety system have been compromised and biased," California Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno).

State leaders say at least five people at the southeast Fresno plant died, and more than 20 were hospitalized.

Bobby Singh Dhillon says his father worked at Foster Farms for more than 20 years and planned to retire late last year until he died from COVID-19 complications.

"We've paid the ultimate price of losing our father, but there should be accountability from Foster Farms for not providing a safe work environment," Dhillon said.

Fresno County Chief Administrative Officer, Jean Rosseau, said the allegations aren't accurate.

He said last November, they'd been working with Foster Farms on safety protocols, but once they noticed case rates going up, they contacted CalOSHA.

Rosseau says CalOSHA was slammed, and they'd put it on a list, but the county didn't want to wait and set up a visit to plant.

County officials say they let CalOSHA know of the visit.

"CalOSHA, during that conversation, asked if they could come with us. They weren't planning on going on their own," Rosseau said.

Rosseau claims Foster Farms asked how many people would be attending so they can get a big enough room.

"They asked how many people are coming out. We told them the number and that CalOSHA would come out. We asked for a room large enough to social distance," Rosseau said.

Nathalie Granda: Did CalOSHA know you told Foster Farms?

"I believe so, yes," Rosseau responded. "The legislature wants to investigate. We welcome it. We don't have anything to hide."

Action News reached out to Foster Farms for a comment but has not yet received a response.
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.